Kyle Whittingham’s contract extension put him in elite company

Kyle Whittingham’s contract extension put him in elite company

The University of Utah’s head football coach is now paid more than 75% of his peers in the Pac-12, trailing only USC’s Lincoln Riley and Stanford’s David Shaw.

Due to his recent contract extension, University of Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham is now one of the highest compensated coaches in the Pac-12.

Whittingham is slated to earn $6 million this year ($4.5 million in pay from the school, $1.5 million from Learfield and Under Armour) and by 2027 could make $8 million.

Per The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner, Whittingham’s extension puts him ahead of nine of the Pac-12’s 11 other head coaches when it comes to compensation, with salary figures obtained from university disclosures.

Ellessa Bonstrom Named NFCA Third Team All-American

Ellessa Bonstrom Named NFCA Third Team All-American

Bonstrom becomes the first All-American since 2017 and the 13th in program history.

SALT LAKE CITY – Continuing to pile up the post season accolades, Utah senior Ellessa Bonstrom was named a Third Team All-American as an outfielder by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association this afternoon. She becomes the 13th player in program history to be named an All-American and the first since Hannah Flippen, who picked up her third honor back in 2017.

“What an exciting day! Bonstrom is so deserving of this award and she has been an every day starter for us since arriving in Utah four years ago,” head coach Amy Hogue said. “This is the highest honor in our sport and I couldn’t be happier for her!”

Coming off a career year, Bonstrom received her first NFCA recognition two weeks ago being named First Team All-Pacific Region. She also picked up her second All-Conference honor of her career, being named to the Pac-12’s First Team and academically has excelled in the classroom being selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team.  

As one of the premier bats in the nation and the Pac-12, Bonstrom started in all 52 games she appeared in this season and set new single season career highs in runs scored (43), hits (53), triples (2), RBI (44), walks (41), sacrifice flies (5), stolen bases (11) and fielding percentage (.986).

She led the team in all of the above in addition to batting average (.376), home runs (11), on-base (.503) and slugging percentage (.709). Bonstrom nearly doubled her stolen bases from last year with 11, ranking second on the team. She also put together the longest hitting and reached base streak at 11 and 24 games, respectively, while posting 13 multi-RBI and multi-hit performances.

Bonstrom finished the regular season leading the conference in sacrifice flies and ranked in the top-10 in RBI (9th), walks (4th), runs scored (5th), stolen bases (5th) and on-base percentage (6th). 

In her career, Bonstrom owns a .320 batting average in 176 games and ranks fifth all-time in program history in home runs (35), walks (90) and is tied fourth in sacrifice flies (8).

Bonstrom joins 10 other Pac-12 players to be named to one of the three 2022 NFCA Division I All-American teams. UCLA led the conference with three selections as Arizona State and Washington followed, each with two. Arizona, California and Oregon State rounded out the teams with an All-American honoree. 
 
The NFCA All-America teams are voted on by the Association’s All-America Committees. In Division I, the committee is comprised of one selected member head coach from each of the NFCA’s 10 regions. All student-athletes who were nominated by a member head coach and voted to the first-, second or third-team All-Region teams were eligible for All-America consideration.

List of Utah Softball All-Americans
Melonie Kent (1981) – First Team
Cindy Lyon (1982) – First Team
Annette Ausseresses (1985) – First Team
Michele Townsend (1985) – Second Team
Pipi Hollingworth (1987) – Second Team
Charmelle Green (1990, 1991) – Utah’s first two-time honoree. First team in 1990 and second team choice in ’91.
Amy (Timmel) Hogue (1994) – Second Team
Ali (Andrus) Sagas (1994) – Second Team
Sandy Rhea (1997, 1998) – First team in 1997 and second team in ’98.
Sunny Smith (2000) – Second Team
Jackie Wong (2006) – Second Team
Hannah Flippen (2014, 2015, 2017) – Second team in 2014 and first team in 2015 and ’17.

Utah’s Alex Smith, Eric Weddle are on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Will they get immediate enshrinement?

Utah’s Alex Smith, Eric Weddle are on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Will they get immediate enshrinement?

Smith and Weddle were both first-team All-Americans, a mandatory College Football Hall of Fame criteria

University of Utah greats Alex Smith and Eric Weddle have a shot at college football immortality.

The National Football Foundation on Monday morning announced the 2023 ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame, which includes 80 players from the FBS.

Among those 80 names are the former Utes quarterback and defensive back. Smith (2002-04) and Weddle (2003-06) both appear on the ballot for the first time, having met a series of criteria, which includes being 10 years removed from playing a college football game and being retired from the NFL. Smith retired in 2020, while Weddle came out of retirement to help the Los Angeles Rams win Super Bowl LVI earlier this year.

So what are the chances that either Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, or Weddle, twice the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American in 2006, receive enshrinement on the first shot?

The ballot annually produced by the NFF, which oversees and operates the College Football Hall of Fame, is infamously bloated on an annual basis. That, plus the comparisons between eras and conferences makes it tough to gauge who will gain an entry any given year.

And, frankly, history is not on their side. Since 2015, only 10 FBS players have received first-ballot enshrinement, a list that includes Vince Young, Charles Woodson, Ed Reed, Peyton Manning and Ricky Williams.

Including Smith and Weddle, there are 25 first-time nominees on the ballot. Among those are USC’s Reggie Bush, a two-time All-American who is only being nominated now after the NCAA ended his disassociation from the Trojans last June, and Florida’s Tim Tebow, who led the Gators to two national championships and is the only sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy (2007).

Ryan Leaf is another first-time candidate worth mentioning, having won Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 1997 while leading Washington State to its first Rose Bowl since 1930. Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter is yet another, his career highlighted by unanimous All-America honors and a runner-up Heisman Trophy finish in 1994 when the Nittany Lions won the Rose Bowl and finished ranked No. 2 in the country.

Smith’s numbers and accolades, to be clear, are gaudy, and deserving of consideration. A first-team All-American in 2004, Smith went 21-1 as the Utes’ starter in running Urban Meyer’s high-octane spread offense. With Smith at the wheel, Utah won the Mountain West in 2003 and 2004, going 12-0 in 2004 to become the first non-BCS team to break through and play in a BCS game, a rout of Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2004, he finished fourth in voting for the Heisman after throwing for 2,952 yards and 32 touchdowns against just four interceptions.

But will voters hold it against him that he played in the Mountain West?

Matt Cavanaugh quarterbacked Pitt to the 1976 national championship, but his stats were lesser than Smith thanks to the benefit of having Tony Dorsett in his backfield. Ken Dorsey left Miami as the program’s all-time leader in total offense and passing yards, while going to back-to-back BCS national championship game berths, winning it as a junior in 2001. Josh Heupel won the national title and was the Heisman runner-up in 2000, Tim Couch left Kentucky in 1998 with a slew of school, SEC and NCAA records.

For whatever it’s worth, Smith and Weddle may both be near top of mind for voters. Weddle just won a Super Bowl, while Smith is less than two years removed from a 16-year NFL career that included a remarkable, high-profile comeback in 2020 from a gruesome 2018 leg injury that nearly cost him his life.

While there are no minimums or maximums per position within a single College Football Hall of Fame class, Weddle faces stiff competition among the other six defensive backs on the ballot.

The closest thing to a sure thing among the seven appears to be Tennessee’s Eric Berry, a two-time unanimous All-American (2008-09), the 2009 Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB, and a three-time All-SEC pick. USC’s Mark Carrier won the Thorpe Award and was a unanimous first-team All-American in 1989, as was Antonio Langham in 1993 for Alabama.

The 2023 class will be announced in January, with the formal induction ceremony scheduled for Dec. 5 at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner in Las Vegas.

Utah Utes mailbag: Could Utah’s Rose Bowl appearance factor into a College Football Playoff run in 2022?

Utah Utes mailbag: Could Utah’s Rose Bowl appearance factor into a College Football Playoff run in 2022?

Plus: How might NIL affect current younger Utes, preparing for The Swamp, Utah football facility upgrades, and more

The optimism, if not the expectations, around the University of Utah football program is palpable as the start of fall camp looms.

And we all know why.

Another Pac-12 South title, the first Pac-12 championship game win in program history, a trip to the Rose Bowl, and a slew of key pieces returning from that run have fans and media members, both local and national, believing that a run to the College Football Playoff this fall is something more than a pipedream.

That’s where this program is at the moment, in the way-too-early, on-paper conversation as a CFP qualifier, and that’s exactly where we’re going to start this week’s mailbag.

Do you have a question for Utes beat reporter Josh Newman? Send it to him via a tweet, direct message him on Twitter, email him at jnewman@sltrib.com, or leave it in the comments section at the end of this article and he will answer them in his weekly mailbag.

Q: “Because of the Rose Bowl appearance, do you think Utah is going to be respected enough that if they lose one or two games, they can make the College Football Playoff? Kind of like these big teams that don’t win the conference but still go.” – Emailer Ashton

A: Utah getting to the Rose Bowl last season will have no bearing on how the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses to view it. None. Zero. Zilch. Last season was last season, this season will be this season, one does not matter in terms of the other.

As far as respect in the case of a loss or two, if last season has nothing to do with anything this season, then I won’t sit here and say respect off the Rose Bowl run has anything to do with it either. I think we’re all programmed to believe that the Pac-12 doesn’t get a ton of respect nationally, but frankly, why should it? Only two Pac-12 teams have gotten to the CFP, and the last one to do it, 2016 Washington, got completely outclassed by Alabama in a semifinal.

There have been four teams since the inception of the CFP — 2016 Ohio State, 2017 Alabama, 2018 Notre Dame and 2020 Notre Dame — that did not win their respective conferences, but still got to the Playoff. Notre Dame was obviously an independent in 2018, but during the COVID-impacted 2020 season, the Fighting Irish played a full ACC schedule, lost to Clemson in the ACC championship game when they were ranked No. 2, then made the CFP anyway as the 4-seed, where it lost to Alabama in a semifinal.

All four of those teams to not win a conference championship had CFP-worthy resumes anyway. Utah is not going to the CFP if it doesn’t win the Pac-12, nor is it going to the CFP with two losses, regardless of who the losses are against.

A 13-0, Pac-12-champion Utah team is absolutely going to the CFP. A 12-1, Pac-12 champion Utah team might still get there, but the situation becomes a lot murkier.

My advice is to beat Florida on Sept. 3. We’ll start there.

Q: “Do you foresee Utah losing a lot of their top players after this season to big money bag schools? Why would Glover, Barton or others not take a big pay day and improve their draft positioning at a bigger school? IMO, tough times ahead for Utah football after this season. Would not be surprised if Kyle split after this season…” – Emailer Trail Goat

A: I think you’re overthinking this a bit, but your overarching point is perfectly valid.

We’ve seen in recent months how the name, image and likeness era has turned into a bit of the Wild West thanks to outside NIL collectives. And I don’t think anyone knows exactly what is going to happen with NIL at the NCAA or even the congressional level. What I do know is, boosters and outside interests have been impactful on the world of college sports for generations, so why should anyone believe that won’t continue in some shape or form here, even if the NCAA does actually find some teeth and does something about what is currently going on?

It is interesting that you bring up Jaylon Glover and Lander Barton to support this question, because of all the talent on Utah’s roster, of all the young guys at Whittingham’s disposal, those are the two guys I have a hard time believing would go anywhere.

I learned a long time ago to never say never, but Glover was a hype man for his recruiting class for months after he committed, then boldly, and without room for debate, stuck to his commitment after his chief recruiter, former Utes running backs coach Kiel McDonald left for USC in January. Glover wants to be at Utah. If nothing else is clear, that certainly is.

The Barton family is Utah athletics royalty. Lander’s older brothers, Cody and Jackson, both starred for Whittingham and now play in the NFL. Lander’s older sister, Dani, was a four-time All-Pac-12 volleyball player, leaving with career records for kills (2,268), sets played (561), matches played (150), and attempts (5,655).

Lander’s recruitment wasn’t the family’s first rodeo. Oregon, Texas, and Michigan. That’s who he chose Utah over. Unless something dire happens, it’s tough to see him transferring, even with the allure of big money potentially out there somewhere else.

As for Whittingham, I had a conversation with someone in the Pac-12 football world recently who wondered aloud if NIL, and the headaches that come with it, might expedite Whittingham’s retirement decision.

It at least makes sense to label the NIL stuff as a potential factor.

Q: “How much weekly sauna/steam room time should I be incorporating into my routine to prepare for the opener at The Swamp?” – @mattaiken92

A: I’ve talked myself into the weather on Sept. 3 not being too bad. Maybe, potentially, I hope.

The average temperature in Gainesville on that date is 79 degrees with a high of 87. The average humidity on that date is right around 80%. Then, consider that this is a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, with the sun ready to set at 7:49 p.m. The night kickoff means you’re missing the day’s heat, but you’re going to be left with the humidity. Not great. If you tell me you plan to tailgate earlier in the day in the heat, that’s on you.

I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re all going to be fine, but maybe pack an extra shirt or two that day.

By the way, a good steam room, especially after a workout, is terrific. It’ll help you relax, it’ll loosen you up, it’ll burn more calories. I haven’t done a steam room in forever, mostly due to the pandemic, but they’re awesome.

Q: “After the new indoor facility is complete, what will be the next facility upgrade for the football program?” – @ty_fly22

A: Utah athletic director Mark Harlan has said in the past that the athletic department is always looking at ways to upgrade various facilities, but to be honest, once this football facility is complete in 2024, I don’t know that there’s another football upgrade that sticks out as necessary.

Maybe more work on Rice-Eccles Stadium, but where? They just finished completion on the south end zone project, so wholesale changes aren’t really necessary unless there is some area of the stadium in need that I’m just not aware of.

The Eccles Football Center was completed less than a decade ago, but are there upgrades to be made there?

What I do know is a new indoor football facility is a pretty significant must in what is always a facilities arms race among programs across the region, if not the country.

Q: “Who is your favorite Sopranos character? Who killed Tony?” – @Eric18utah

A: Tony isn’t dead, he’s doing life at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton for murder and racketeering. Seriously, all these years later, that series finale was wildly unsatisfying and was left way too open for interpretation.

Quick story: I watched the series finale with my parents and my brother. As the episode nears its end, we’re not quite sure where things are going as the Sopranos sit at Holsten’s. Meadow finally parks her car after 37 tries, runs across the street, door opens, Tony looks up, screen fades to black.

Dead silence on my parents’ couch. After a few seconds, finally, my mother cuts the tension by deadpanning to my father, “Did you not pay the @#$%& cable bill?”

My favorite character is Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri. The wings in his hair, the clothes, the Cadillac, all the hand gestures, the voice, the comedic relief, everything about Paulie was just perfection.

I will take this opportunity to offer my feeling that “Pine Barrens” is a great episode, but overrated, not worth the adulation it has received through the years.

Q: “Bucket list concert you’d like to attend before the act hangs ‘em up?” – @RunninHoops

A: I found rap music pretty early, like 11 or 12 years old. We’re talking about the early 1990s, before it was widely accepted and considered mainstream.

That said, the only time I’ve really veered far from that genre is Billy Joel. Love me some Billy Joel, but have never seen him live despite him playing Madison Square Garden as many times as he has in recent years. Those shows were a little bit out of our price range, but finally, in 2019, my wife and I were going to bite the bullet and enjoy ourselves, but whoops, I got a job in Utah, so that took priority at the time. I still regret not going for it.

Joel is 73, so who knows how long he has left to perform. He is still playing the Garden, and as far as I can tell, has come as far west as Denver in recent years. If he comes to Denver again, and my schedule works, I think we’re going to have to do that before it’s too late.

Q: “Pick one: Winter every day in SLC or summer every day in SLC.” – @cam_utah

A: I hate being cold, and when I say cold, I mean “it’s 12 degrees outside” cold, not “the air conditioner in this hotel is set at 58 degrees” cold. That second one rules.

Seriously, though, I’ve lived in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Utah, and I HATE winter and everything that goes along with it. The snow, the cold, the need to bundle up, my ears tearing, my lips chapping, snow boots, all of it. The only thing I will say is that, in my limited experience, a winter here is more manageable than a winter in the northeast.

Give me summer all day and twice on Sundays, mostly because there is no humidity. The heat is quite brutal in the dead of July and August here, but you can hack it without the humidity. I’m getting a workout done in the morning, before it gets too hot, and the rest of the day is no big deal, either working or running errands. No big deal.

What do people in Arizona do in July when it’s 273 degrees outside? You have to have a pool, right? I’m moving to San Diego, where it’s 73 degrees all year and I can wear Rainbows in January.

Who’s with me?

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

Micah Bernard

Micah Bernard

Running Back, Football Team

BERNARD QUICK HITS

  • 23 career games at Utah, six starts (5 at RB, 1 at CB in 2021).
  • Two career 100-yard rushing games (2021).

2021: Played in all 14 games with six starts (5 at RB, 1 at CB), recording 87 carries for 523 yards (6.0 ypc) and two touchdowns while leading the running backs with 26 catches for 251 yards (9.6 ypc) and two touchdowns.  

  • Career-high 146 rushing yards and one touchdown on 12 carries against BYU, recording a career-long 50-yard rush in the game as well.
  • His 12.2 yards per carry against BYU ranked fourth all-time at Utah in a single game.
  • Recorded 12 rushes for 110 yards (9.2 ypc) and an 11-yard rushing touchdown at Stanford, adding two catches for 32 yards that included a career long 28-yard reception.
  • 94 all-purpose yards in Utah’s win over Arizona, including a career-best 60 receiving yards.
  • Career-high 17 carries against San Diego State for 47 yards.
  • Started at cornerback in Utah’s Rose Bowl appearance vs. Ohio State, recording a team-high 10 tackles while also rushing three times for 31 yards with two catches for 15 yards and a receiving touchdown.
  • Caught his first career receiving touchdown against Oregon State (14 yds).

2020: Played in all five games with  15 carries for 76 yards (5.1 ypc), adding four catches for 25 yards (6.2 ypc).

  • Career-high 26 rushing yards on three carries against Oregon State, also recording a career-long 24-yard rush.
  • Career-high five carries at No. 21 Colorado for 14 yards.

2019: Redshirt.

  • Saw action in four games on special teams.  

High School: Three-star recruit by Rivals and 247Sports out of Gahr HS.

  • 2017 All-CIF Southern Section Division 10, Cal-Hi Junior all-state and Area Offensive Player of the Year.
  • Two-time all-area, earning first-team honors in 2017.
  • 100 carries for 716 yards (9 TD) as a senior in 2018, averaging 7.2 yards per carry and 71.6 yards per game. Also had 606 yards receiving (6 TD) for 1,322 all-purpose yards.
  • 259 carries for 2,411 yards (27 TD), averaging 9.3 yards per carry and 200.9 yards per game with 10, 100-yard rushing games in 2017.
  • SoCal Prep Legends Boys Athlete of the Week after a 224-yard rushing, three touchdown performance against St. Anthony.
  • Also competed in track and basketball.

Personal: Name is pronounced muh-ky … majoring in communications.

Trading cards featuring your favorite college football and basketball stars are coming soon

Trading cards featuring your favorite college football and basketball stars are coming soon

The best college football and basketball players in America will soon become part of a long-standing sport tradition. They’ll be featured on Topps trading cards.

Fanatics Collectibles and Topps announced a “comprehensive college trading cards program” Thursday, with deals with over 100 universities nationwide and separate deals with 200 student athletes who play college football and college basketball.

“Fanatics has been closely monitoring the ever-evolving NIL landscape, and we felt this was the perfect time to launch multiple, strategic college trading card programs that will allow schools and current student-athletes to create new levels of direct engagement with fans across hundreds of the top programs nationwide,” Derek Eiler, executive vice president of Fanatics College, said in a statement. “There are tremendous opportunities for this untapped area of the hobby and to expand further across the collegiate sports landscape.”  

Topps has secured multiyear, exclusive rights with more than 35 schools (the majority are Power Five programs), including Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Oregon, Penn State and Texas A&M.

Topps will “create official trading cards products combining official university trademarks with name, image and likeness (NIL) rights from both current student-athletes and former players.”

Those agreements will start sometime between 2023 and 2025.

Additionally, later this year Topps will also kick off a “scaled, nonexclusive trading card program” featuring current and future college football and basketball stars.

Notable participants include Alabama quarterback and 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and USC quarterback Caleb Williams.

Incoming college basketball players like Dereck Lively II (Duke) and Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas) have also signed deals with Topps, as have some of the best women’s college basketball stars, including South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Individual player trading cards will be released under Topps’ BowmanU brand beginning this fall. 

Woolnough Wraps Up Collegiate Career with Second-Team All-America Honors

Woolnough Wraps Up Collegiate Career with Second-Team All-America Honors

Cara Woolnough of the Utah track & field team closes the books on her collegiate career with second-team All-America honors in the 5000m.

EUGENE, Ore. – Utah track & field senior Cara Woolnough closed out her collegiate career at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships with second-team All-American honors after finishing 12th overall late Saturday afternoon in the 5000m race inside the reimagined Hayward Field.
 
Woolnough becomes the 15th Woman of Utah to earn All-America honors, joining Josefine Eriksen – who earned honorable mention All-America Thursday night in the 800m. The two All-America honors make it back-to-back season with multiple All-Americans for Utah, but the first time since 2012 where the Utes had it come from two different individuals.
 
She is now the fifth Ute to earn All-America accolades in the 5000m event, joining Poppy Tank (2021, HM), Grayson Murphy (2017, 2nd), Carla Pittlekow (1982) and Jill Molen (1982).

“Definitely laid it out on the track and gave it all I had today,” Woolnough said after the race.

The Brisbane, Australia, native kept within striking distance from the front of the pack for most of the race before the top-5 began to separate themselves from the rest of the group. Woolnough eventually finished with a mark of 15:45.26 – making it her third race this season under the 15:50 mark.
 
“Unbelievable outdoor season,” head coach Kyle Kepler said postrace. “To run four races this year in 15:50 or faster in the 5000m, including three in 15:45 or less, is incredibly consistent. Hard to put into words what Cara has meant to the program and the work she has put in on and off the track to have the year that she’s had – including her becoming just the third recipient of the NCAA Elite 90 award here at Utah. Simply incredible. We’re going to miss her in our program, but so lucky to have had her in our Utah cross country and track & field family the past five years.”
 
With that race, the 2021-22 athletics season at the University of Utah officially comes to a close until teams return to The Hill and reports back in for fall camp ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
 
For the latest news and information on the Utah cross country and track & field programs, fans can stay connected online at www.UtahUtes.com and on social media by following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Incredible Season for Utah Golf Comes to an End on Sunday at NCAA Championships

Incredible Season for Utah Golf Comes to an End on Sunday at NCAA Championships

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Utah men’s golf season came to an end on Sunday afternoon as the team was unable to advance to Monday’s final stroke play round. Shooting their lowest team score of the NCAA Championships (296, +12) in the third round, the Utes totaled 904 (+64) for the tournament to finish in 27th – their highest finish since their last appearance at the championships in 1988 when Utah placed 29th.

“Today was our best round of the week. Score wise it was only one stroke lower than the first round, but overall it was much better,” head coach Garrett Clegg said. “I know this wasn’t the national championship that we wanted, but it was great to be here. It was a huge learning opportunity for Javier, Martin and Braxton. Hopefully next year we will be back here to finish our season and they will be better prepared for what is in front of them.”

As one of the last teams to tee off this afternoon with the College of Charleston in windy conditions, the Utes finished their championship appearance on a strong note as freshmen Braxton Watts and Martín León paced Utah with their best performances of the weekend. Watts shot the low round for the Utes, turning in a 72 (+2) with a team best four birdies on his scorecard. Watts bested his second-round performance by 14 strokes and his first-round score by five strokes. Starting on the front nine, Watts started his round with a bogey on the first hole and saw a four-hole stretch going birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey to make the turn at 1-over. Watts collected a pair of birdies on the back and three bogeys to card his best round of the weekend, finishing with a total of 237 (+27) for the tournament.

Leon played some real solid golf this afternoon, shooting a 73 (+3) to top his second-round score by seven strokes. Like Watts, Martin left with a bogey on the first hole but bounced back immediately with five straight pars before a bogey on the par four seventh put him at 2-over heading into the back. Leon found his lone birdie on the par four 14th hole, in between a pair of pars and bogeys he made to go 1-over on the back. With his 73, Leon totaled 234 (+24) for the weekend.

Playing steady all three days, Javier Barcos shot a 75 (+5) in his final round of the season with a pair of birdies on the card. After a bogey on hole three, Barcos started to gain some momentum with two birdies and a pair over his next three holes but would enter into a rough stretch of four straight bogeys right in the heart of his round. During his last eight holes, Barcos parred six and bogeyed two as he totaled a team low score of 222 (+12) in his championship appearance.

Blake Tomlinson’s career as a Ute came to an end on Sunday as he posted a 76 (+6) in his final round. Starting off his day, Tomlinson bogeyed the first and double bogeyed the third before finding himself in a groove with four pars and a birdie over his next six holes. He would bogey the ninth hole right before making the turn and picked up three more on the back nine while parring six to shoot a pair of 38’s on each side and end with a championship total of 226 (+16).

Tristan Mandur also played his final tournament for Utah, enduring a roller coaster of a round to turn in a 12-over 82. Mandur recorded a double bogey to start his afternoon and bogeyed three consecutive holes entering the par three eighth hole. Getting back on track with a par, Mandur executed his shots on the par fourth ninth to pick up the first of two birdies on his scorecard. It was an eventful back nine for Mandur with one birdie, four bogeys and two doubles to shoot a 43 (+8) and tie Leon with a 234 (+24) for the tournament.

“It was an outstanding season for the golf program and the team set a new standard for future teams to measure themselves. We played great golf for most of the year and as a group we were extremely consistent,” said Clegg. “The future is extremely bright with Javier leading the way for two more years. With the emergence of Martin and Braxton, I expect our program to continue to be a force on the national scene. We have incredible people within our program and it is a great time to be a Ute!”

Follow the Utes
For fans of the Utah golf program, follow the Utes on Twitter (@UtesGolf) and Instagram (@UtesGolf).

Former Utah defensive lineman John Penisini retires after 2 NFL seasons with Detroit Lions

Former Utah defensive lineman John Penisini retires after 2 NFL seasons with Detroit Lions

After two seasons in the NFL, John Penisini is retiring from football.

The former Utah and West Jordan High defensive lineman made the announcement Saturday morning on Instagram.

“I’m definitely going to miss my teammates and the coaching staff but I’m glad I got to experience it. I’m happy and excited for whatever life has for me,” Penisini wrote.

“For my family, friends, teammates, coaches and all the people who supported my dream along the way I appreciate and love you guys. Go Lions #OnePride.”

The 25-year-old Penisini, who grew up in the Salt Lake Valley, was a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.

During his rookie NFL season, Penisini — who also played at Snow College before starring on the Utes’ defensive line — started 12 games for the Lions.

He finished his pro career playing in 32 games and had 49 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one pass deflection and a fumble recovery.

Following his rookie NFL season, Penisini underwent surgery to have large masses removed from both of his shoulders, according to The Detroit News.

“Penisini had what looked like softballs in his shoulder that he had repaired after the season, after the fact,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said, per the Detroit News. ”It just looked like a bunch of calcium deposits that had been in there. You wonder why when you watch the film last year why he’s not using his arm. It’s because he had issues.”

Is Utah the most likely Power Five program outside the SEC to repeat as conference champion?

Is Utah the most likely Power Five program outside the SEC to repeat as conference champion?

The Utah football program is receiving plenty of attention leading into the 2022 season, as the reigning Pac-12 champion is seen by some as a dark horse College Football Playoff candidate.

It’s a compelling argument, with the Utes coming off the program’s first Pac-12 title and first appearance in the Rose Bowl.

Can Utah repeat its 2021 Pac-12 superiority in 2022?

During a recent episode of the “Late Kick” podcast, college football expert Josh Pate was asked, of the four non-SEC Power Five reigning conference champions, which one is most likely to repeat?

Pate chose defending Pac-12 champion Utah ahead of the Big Ten’s Michigan (which he picked second-most likely to repeat), the ACC’s Pittsburgh (third) and the Big 12’s Baylor (fourth).

Why are the Utah Utes a favorite to repeat as Pac-12 champions?

Pate pointed to a few things that make the Utes a compelling repeat champion.

Utah returns 67% of its production from the 2021 season, according to the latest numbers from ESPN’s Bill Connelly, which ranks 49th nationally. That’s ahead of Michigan (65%, 65th) and Baylor (47%, 122nd), and just behind Pittsburgh (69%, 45th).

Pate called Utah the most “tailor-made” to repeat, citing the fact junior quarterback Cam Rising is back after breaking out in the 2021 season, and Utah doesn’t have wholesale changes on the offensive and defensive lines.

Pate also called the 2022 Utes “one of the best” athletic teams that Kyle Whittingham has had — that from a team that’s added several transfers this offseason, including former Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate.

“They’ve got everything lined up for him because when you play a team like Oregon, or you play a team like USC, how was your situation gonna be any more opportune than both of them having new staffs and you, on the other hand, have one of the most veteran staffs in the country?” Pate said. 

What changes are coming for the Pac-12 championship game in 2022?

The Pac-12 recently announced the league’s conference championship game will now pit the two teams with the highest conference game winning percentage, beginning this season.

Previously, the Pac-12 championship game featured the winner of the North Division vs. the winner of the South Division.

The NCAA, though, relaxed championship game legislation in May that allows conferences to choose their own way to pick the championship game participants.

The last Pac-12 team to win back-to-back conference titles was Oregon, in 2019 and 2020. Prior to that, Stanford won back-to-back Pac-12 titles in 2012 and 2013.